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The Birth of Publishing Company ‘BookGoodCome’

The Discovery of Small Universes In Picture Books




Reading picture books always leaves one wanting more. They take roughly 10 minutes to read. Like swallowing noodles, one can easily leaf through picture books but the content lingers for longer. That lingering feeling like a savory flavor one finds difficult to shake even after a long period of time.
Here is a publisher that creates its own savory flavor while creating small universes in picture books. After opening its doors in 2009, BookGoodCome has been contacted by distinguished publishers from locations around the world. We spoke to author couple Lee Rury and Lee Sun-young who manage BookGoodCome and its four hard-working employees.



A surprising relationship that started with Coda the Polar Bear, the seed of BookGoodCome


We are curious as to how BookGoodCome came to be.


Lee Sun-young

We first began our business in 2009 and the following year, we participated in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair with just one book. That book was coda the polar bear(Written by Lee Rury, illustrated by Bae Woory). It was Lee Rury’s first picture book after she had found a life-changing picture book around the age of 30. Before then she had been preparing to become a novelist. It was courageous but that one book we took to the children’s book fair then became the seed for our company today. That year we pulled off exports to Israel and Turkey. This year was our eighth year participating in the Bologna book fair and this autumn we will have our seventh exhibit at the Frankfurt international book fair. Considering our size, BookGoodCome has done pretty well so far and our books have been sold into the United States, France, Spain, Italy, Taiwan and China - a total of 13 countries. And we’ve signed some 50 different export contracts.



Coda the Polar Bear published into several languages


We heard you created a special relationship that first year at the Bologna book fair.


Lee Sun-young

Yes, we had the good fortune to meet Emanuele Bertossi, who illustrated our second Coda the Polar Bear book. We’ve continued to work with Bertossi even through our Black Coda series. Recently at the Seoul International Book Fair, Lee Rury and Bertossi had an event with the theme picture book travel where they met with readers. Every year we meet with Bertossi at book fairs and this year was the first time we met in Seoul. The illustrator is like family now and he came with his spouse to Korea this year. When we think of how we first met the illustrator, we are amazed at how some relationships come about.



▲ BookGoodCome’s exhibit booth at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair(left) 
▲ With Bertossi, an Italian picture book illustrator(right)



▲ Robert E. Baensch, a Picture Book Consultant


Our first year at the Bologna book fair, we had briefly left our spots at our booth and when we returned we found a lady sitting there. We offered her Coda the Polar Bear and after she read it, she started crying and told us it was a very beautiful book. She told us she wanted to buy it. Lee Rury autographed the copy of the book and gave it to her as a gift.




Later that evening, the lady came back with a man to our booth. We found out her husband was an Italian illustrator, Emanuele Bertossi. Bertossi gave us one of his books which he autographed. This book was a non-profit publication created by a dialect-preservation committee in Friuli, northern Italy. As soon as I read the English translation of the book, I decided to publish it through BookGoodCome. It was a book with a beautiful story of how humans were kept alive through the spirit of caring and worrying about other beings. Several months later this book was published as The Day Snow Comes thanks to the help of author Lee Sun-won. It became a picture book that used the dialect of Gangneung, which is slightly similar to the dialect used in Friuli.


The keywords for BookGoodCome can be summarized into: environment, coexistence and healing. We are curious as to whether there was a special reason for the publisher in selecting these themes.


Lee Rury

My three keywords in life are polar bears, dolphins and penguins. To me, they’re not just animals but beings that have souls just like us. I believe the animals on our planet are our friends. That’s why I naturally think of the environment and upon this basis of solidarity with nature, our philosophy at BookGoodCome has become these three words: environment, coexistence and healing. The name of our company in Korean is ‘polar bear’ and because of that we try to take some responsibility in helping them.
Another aspect of what we do is ‘healing’. Through making picture books we came to realize there were more adults than we thought experiencing personal growth and healing through picture books. Some still think picture books are just for children, but it’s only natural for adults to want to read picture books. I think people who have run into at least one profound picture book in their lifetime would wholly agree.


Who is one picture book author that has remained in your memory the most?


Lee Sun-young

That would be In Search of A Quiet Land by Moon Jina. In the case of Moon, she had created a dummy through a picture book workshop at SangSang Madang. We saw that dummy at an exhibit at one of the book fairs in Bologna. At that time we were reviewing dummies by authors at our booth and we got to know Moon this way as well. After finishing her book I had tears in my eyes. The book addressed death and the illustrations were extraordinary. We ended up adding some drama to the book, editing it a bit before publishing. This book has sold steadily overseas including France. It talks about death but it’s not just sad and helps readers to focus on their present lives. This book was our first book created by the first author we discovered.



▲ French and Arabic versions of In Search of A Quiet Land


For authors, dummies are completed versions of their books. Of course, the dummies go through many changes before they are officially published but that’s all part of the process for books before they reach their final version. It’s rare for a dummy to be absolutely perfect. We try to see the potential within dummies - like an unpolished stone. We tell ourselves, “That would be a very beautiful stone once it’s carved and polished.” For most, if the illustrations are good, the stories are mediocre. If the story is good, the illustrations are not. It’s up the publisher to try to find that balance. Of course, various situations may arise due to the personal preferences of the publisher or editor, but whether the work shows high completion or low, BookGoodCome is always open to honest stories that touch hearts.


Could you tell us about your successful exports?


Lee Sun-young

The book on Black Coda which we worked on with Bertossi is finally being published in Italy. The book had been published in 11 other countries before but Italy was not one of them so we’d felt it was a bit unfortunate. But after eight years following our debut at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair the book is being published in Italy. We met the head of the Italian publisher that will be releasing the book, Babalibri, in Seoul a few years ago at the Seoul International Book Fair. We were able to share our joy in releasing the book in Italy. Ironically, the executive thanked us for introducing him to Bertossi, saying he got to know the illustrator through a small publisher in South Korea.(Laughs)




Please tell us about your plans for the future or any books you might be planning.


Lee Sun-young

Last year our Lee Rury was one of the judges at a picture book challenge jointly hosted by Naver Grafolio and Wow Book Arts Center. One of the award recipients, Lee Mi-seong, will publish a book through us soon called Waktoo. It’s a book carrying unique illustrations and fresh ideas.
And in this year, we've published a picture book entitled Sam, The Boy Who Was Always Late, a parody of John Patrick Norman McHennessy, which teaches important life lessons. John Patrick Norman McHennessy is Lee Rury’s most favorite picture book and the book’s author, John Burningham, is one of the authors who really got Lee Rury into picture books. In addition to these, Dad Dad Tell Us A Fun Story and The Sleeping Grandmother by João Vaz de Carvalho also have been introduced to the readers in Korea.
In the second half of this year, BookGoodCome will be participating in the moving book fair to Vietnam in July, the Frankfurt book fair in October and the Guadalajara book fair in November. We’re trying to participate in as many small book fairs as we can as well.
I think growing our network with other publishers in different countries and conveying our unique philosophy are important for us right now as picture books can be understood in all different countries. Like we said earlier, relationships begin in quite interesting ways.


Lastly, could you tell us about some of your books that most represent BookGoodCome for our offshore readers?




Lee Sun-young

There are times when people ask That would be Ditori’s Do You Want To Imagine Colors. The author had worked as an art teacher’s assistant for a year at a school for the blind and one of the students had asked, “What do colors look like?” I think the author felt guilty about being unable to give the student a proper answer then. With that experience in mind, the author then tried to create a picture book in which readers could imagine colors with their senses excluding sight. For example, yellow would be the flavor of tangy lemonade while green would be the smell of grass when you’re in a forest, taking a deep breath in. Red would be the heat from a warm campfire. It was a very new kind of idea that would enable everyone to have a new experience whether they were handicapped or not. As soon as we saw that dummy, we knew we wanted to publish it. The book was published early this year and introduced at the Bologna book fair. We signed a deal there with France’s Circonflexe. I think it’d be great to introduce this book elsewhere if we have the opportunity.



Written by Jihye Gwon


Jihye Gwon

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